As paperless offices become the norm, saving space and rendering collaboration easier, organisations are collecting and storing vaster and vaster amounts of digital data. As this data proliferates, new ways of using data analytics, and of protecting sensitive data, are constantly evolving.

According to Deloitte’s recent report, “analytics is becoming both the air that we breathe and the ocean in which we swim”.

Cloud technologies can translate data increasingly quickly; as a result, many organisations are cottoning on to the idea that data has a crucial role to play in influencing key decisions. Cognitive analytics enable automated analytical thinking and decisive conclusions. This doesn’t replace traditional information-gathering techniques, but can inform just about any investigation – with the ultimate goal of achieving Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).

To provide an obvious example, tax analytics can predict and explain tax levels – enabling fact-based, strategy-driven decisions with increased transparency and accuracy. Tax analytics can also simplify the process of recovering overpaid transaction taxes and help to prevent future overpayments at the same time – a favourable result for any business. Insurers, too, can utilise data to advantage, by ensuring regulations are adhered to.

In a world where data is coming to be valued as an asset, and can be converted to financial gain, there are many other new challenges and responsibilities. Many companies may be underestimating the responsibilities that come with data power, says CIO.

Some say specified standards need to be set for data integration, analytics and processes to ensure accuracy. The data collated from Internet of Things devices needs to be rationalised and integrated in order to generate any real insights of value. The more accurate and streamlined the data, the more valuable it is for businesses and their marketeers.

Then there are the unresolved questions of intellectual property and the ethical use of information. The public demand for accountability is set to increase. Companies should take measures against the predicted backlash against data breaches and more intrusive commercial efforts.

As the arena develops, universities are expected to produce more data scientists and quantifiable analysts to meet the growing need. Interestingly, this runs parallel to an increasing demand for graduates skilled in design and visual processes with the ability to make data analytics ‘pop’.

Data can even be enlisted to protect itself. Security and data protection measures can be enabled by the intrusion detection, differentiating custom privacy settings between personnel, and through digital watermarking (tracing and flagging copyrighted or sensitive material).

To remain competitive, businesses must plan thoroughly to avoid the potential pitfalls of expanding data collections, as well as to make the most of the advantages.